Neeka’s Top 23 Rock and Metal Albums of 2023


The year 2023 proved to be quite a year for rock and metal music. So much so, that I had a hell of a time trying to narrow the list down, and decided to stop at 23 as a parallel to the year we are wrapping up. Even then, I have been antagonizing over who to add, and what the placements should be. I both love and dread this every year. I know my lists are, and will always probably be unconventional to many, but these are the albums that made the most impact on me for numerous reasons. With the ups and downs we face through time, it is interesting to contemplate and discover who has become a part of your life soundtrack for the year. Since music has a way of transporting us to and from our memories and thoughts, I now present you with my 2023 timeline.

23. Sleep Token – Take Me Back to Eden. I assume this one will be the most controversial for many reasons. Most will think it is insane Sleep Token is this far down on my list, others will state it shouldn’t be on lists at all. That is the beauty of music, and having our own experiences with it. Take Me Back to Eden almost didn’t even make it, but with my husband’s love for it, and the continual play I endured, I started to understand the magic behind what they are creating. Take Me Back to Eden is full of melodies, musical shifts, heavy parts, and a whole lot of sadness. When you add in Vessel’s unique vocal style and their live performances, it does blanket itself into a bizarre yet enchanting album. I still might not go out of my way to listen day by day, but I find myself feeling satisfied when it does come across my ears.

22. Dethklok – Dethalbum IV.  I think everyone who had been a fan of Metalocalypse and Dethklok before 2023 had a mini panic attack of excitement when it was announced there was going to be a new album, soundtrack, and movie, all in the same year after ten long years of wondering if the ridiculous four were gone for good. Not only did Brendon Small deliver, but the outcome was a breath of fresh air.  Dethklok includes this co-creator Brendon Small on vocals and guitar, the legendary Gene Hoglan on drums and the co-composer of the music, Pete Griffin on bass and backing vocals, and Nili Brosh on guitar. The album has some epic musical elements and satirical lyrics that make for a great time, anytime. If you are in your late 30s to 40s, make sure you hold your face in place and empty your bladder before pushing play.

21. Die Like Gentlemen – Hard Truths. This Portland quartet has not paved any specific path of a genre, which is one of the many things that makes it so intriguing. That aspect of the unknown is an exciting journey for me. Adam Alexander (guitars, vocals), Shawn Boles (drums), Matt Wieber (guitar), and Sean Rodgers (bass), have created something truly unique with Hard Truths that keep you guessing and enjoying the ride. The changes throughout go from classic metal soundscapes to doom-style elements, to an almost Doors-ish melody and dark mood with “Letting in the Rain”.  Alexander’s range is very impressive and every instrument complements everything the song needs.  The noteworthy song “Bury Me” gets stuck in my head constantly now. It is a banger with some very relatable lyrical content.

20. Overkill – Scorched. You might ask yourself why Overkill is so low on my list, and honestly, I ask myself the same. I have loved them for many years, and this album is absolute fire. Making this list every year is so tough. Here we are on the twentieth release from the incredibly talented musicians; Bobby Blitz (vocals), DD Verni (bass), Dave Linsk (guitar), Jason Bittner (drums), and Derek Tailer (guitar). Scorched is full of evolutional surprises of some melodic shifts and tempo changes, yet still sounds exactly like Overkill. The pandemic did us some good in few areas, but one of those areas is this album in all its’ greatness. Lyrical and riff catchy tracks like, “Twist of the Wick”, which will be sure to be a welcome earworm, to melody shifting “Fever”, with tasty twists and turns. There is no sleeper song, it is all in your face, heavy-hitting, progressive thrashy goodness.

19. Ahab – The Coral Tombs. When you hear about a doom metal band who not only focuses their lyrics on sea-themed topics but also classical nautical books, you don’t say, “I’ll pass”. The intriguing nature of what they are doing is only a fraction of what makes Ahab unique and fascinating. Add in the brilliance of the music and soundscapes of an incredible journey, and you will not want to get off of the metaphorical boat. They began the exploration in 2004 when Chris Hector (guitar) and Daniel Droste (vocals, guitar, keyboard) came together with a vision. They brought in the incredibly talented Cornelius Althammer on drums and in 2008 switched up the bassist to powerhouse Stephan Wandernoth. The musical elements of this album are an intense journey not only lyrically, but compositionally. Every song takes you on a different twist and turns with haunting at times and harsh at other times vocals, melodious and catchy riffs, heavy bass dips, and drum beats to bring it all together.

18. Saint Karloff – Paleolithic War Crimes. Saint Karloff is a Norweigian psychadelic stoner rock band. It was created by three guys; Mads Melvold (vocals, guitar), Adam Suleiman (drums), and Ole Sletner (bass).  Sletner sadly passed away and the two left behind were grief-stricken, yet felt Ole would want them to keep going, enter Paleolithic War Crimes The album was lyrically written by Ole’s brother, Eivind Sletner, while Nico Munkvold jumped in on bass. It starts with, “Psychedelic Man”, which has a total psychedelic feel to it. It is perfectly titled and has some fuzz greatness with a killer riff. I can’t help but close my eyes and groove along. “Among Stone Columns”, slows things down a bit and has some breathy guitar parts that seep into the emotions. It is a quick instrumental with a heavy impact. The transition to “Bone Cave Escape” gives you whiplash but in the best way. The ups and downs throughout are perfectly timed and keep you invested as you don’t know what to expect next.

17. DevilDriverDealing With Demons II. It has been over 20 years and DevilDriver has shown no signs of releasing mediocrity. There are some bands where you can go into a new album, confident it is going to be killer, and these guys are one of those bands. While we have had the pleasure of listening to Dealing with Demons I, which was released in 2020, Dealing with Demons II is even more impressive. Both albums are full of recognizing personal and external demons and calling attention to them. In 2002 DevilDriver began their existence after vocalist Dez Fafara decided to begin a new endeavor. Mike Spreitzer joined early in the game as lead guitarist. While there have been numerous musician changes outside of these two, the music has maintained its stability. Bassist Jon Miller jumped back into the mix after taking a hiatus in 2011, then they added rhythm guitarist Alex Lee, and Davier Perez on drums. Dealing with Demons II is more aggressive than volume I, and takes a more directive approach. There are dynamic musical shifts and stellar riffs. One of my favorite pieces is the beginning of “Summoning”, with the acoustic guitar almost Spanish-style soundscape that merges straight to a heavier melodic atmosphere. Also notable are epic guitar riffs in “Nothing Lasts Forever” and spicy melody switches.

16. KatatoniaSky Void of Stars. Katatonia started in 1991. These Swedes have gone through some lineup changes, but their music maintains consistency. Jonas Renske (vocals), and Anders Nystrom (guitar), were the first to begin this journey. In 2009, Niklas Sandin (bass) joined in and found his home. Later in 2015 and 2016, Daniel Moilanen (drums), and Roger Ojersson (guitar) added to the mix to complete the impressive circle. Katatonia‘s last release, City Burials, ended up ranking #6 in the German charts, and it is easy to understand why. Sky Void of Stars is another breath of fresh air. While it keeps the dependency you want from Katatonia, it is gripping and enchanting the entire way through.  There is a song titled, “Birds”, which comes as no surprise to any fan who is familiar with their association with this winged animal.  I want to make sure to call attention to the song, “No Beacon To Illuminate Our Fall”. This track is an adventure all in itself with mixes of moods and musical elements. It quickly became my favorite, but really, the whole album is fire.

15. AGGROS – Rise of the Aggros. Instrumentals can sometimes hit the nail on the head and really take you places while you listen. Rise of the Aggros by Aggros is one of those albums that makes you rock out one minute, then transports you to another land effortlessly and comfortably the next. Parris Mayhew, formerly of the Cro-Mags, is the mastermind behind this invention and has brought some more talented musicians along for the ride; Cobz (drums), Chuck Lenihan (guitar), and Dierk Peters (piano and organs), while Mayhew of course on the guitar and bass. The album is a full experience that should be heard from beginning to end. It is a journey with heavy riffs and guitar solos that transition to elegant piano elements and organ melodies. Cobz drumming is next-level fast and heavy-hitting. Lenihan is a beast on the guitar and this work continues to show that. Peters has a beautiful interpretation that adds so much to the songs. Mayhew is doing what he does best, and no one will be surprised at the savvy he continues to bleed.

14. Entheos – Time Will Take Us All. How do you even begin to explain the incredible band that is Entheos? Death metal with technical instrumentation is what they are primarily known as, but the latest album Time Will Take Us All adds elements of jazz, grunge, and progressive soundscapes that keep your ears perked up and curious the whole way through. There is also an acoustic guitar toward the end of the album with a haunting lyrical component and feel. The most shocking perhaps, is Chaney Crabb’s jump into clean vocals, which she pulls off flawlessly, to no one’s surprise I am sure. Entheos began their journey in California in 2015. Navene Koperweis (drums), and Chaney Crabb (vocals), are the power duo behind this insanely talented band with the addition of Even Brewer whose bass notes are unparalleled. They had released two albums, The Infinite Nothing (2016), and Dark Future (2017), prior, which both were warmly and immediately embraced by the metal community. Just when you think they cannot possibly get any better, they release Time Will Take Us All, which brings a whole new light to what these guys are capable of. Breathing more musical compositions and a thought-provoking philosophy on life.

13. Almost Honest – The Hex of Penns Woods. Almost Honest has been paving quite the road, mixing it up with unique musical styles blended effortlessly. The Hex of Penns Woods is a diverse and magical journey through Pennsylvanian folklore with dynamic shifts that keep you entertained all the way through. This band began in 2013 and consists of members: Shayne Reed (vocals, guitar), Seth Jackson (vocals, bass), and Quinten Spangler (drums). This album has some stoner rock-style riffs, engaging stories, and funky drum and bass lines. The beginning starts with, “Magician Mortician”, which automatically grabs your attention with the magician talking to the audience and jumping into a solid riff. This track ends with a maniacal laugh and hammering drum beat. The album continues with, “Laughter of the Deer Owl”, which features Brandon Yeagley of Crobot. It is a great collaboration and a ton of fun. You continue right into, “Alien Spiders”, which has an amusing lyrical and musical experience. The album is an immersive experience and a fascinating journey. It ends with, “Goliath’s Lamp”, as the last lyrical song, and “William Penn”, as a quick instrumental to send you on your way. It is a fun album full of stories, great riffs, and all-around fun.

12. August Burns RedDeath Below. This band is some of the hardest-working guys in the scene. They have been touring their hearts out for many years and show an insane amount of energy at their live shows. The importance of their positive lyrical message has become a huge factor and has helped many people through their life obstacles. Add in their insane musical talents with crushing guitar riffs, impeccable drums, as well as intense harsh vocals and steady bass lines, you simply cannot be bored or not entertained. Death Below has some progressive twists and guest musicians; Jesse Leach (Killswitch Engage), Jason Richardson (All That Remains, Born of Osiris, and Chelsea Grin), and JT Cavey (ERRA), which add to the already unblemished experience. There is not a bad song on the album, but two of the most notable are “Fool’s Gold in a Bear Trap” and “Revival”. If you are not already a fan, this album will make you one.

11. Lunar – The illusionist. When I first started listening to The Illusionist, I was immediately enthralled fully by the musicianship, guitar work, drumming, and bass lines. Little did I know the next track was also going to start blowing me away vocally. In 2014, Alex Bosson (drums) and Ryan Erwin (guitar) collaborated as two good friends just wanting to make music they enjoyed and created the band Lunar. They released the first EP, Provenance, and then released their debut album, Theogony, which was a concept album full of mythology. At this point, the two good friends and creators had a sad parting as Erwin passed away and Bosson was left behind, grieving, and trying to decide what to do with what they started. He released Eidolon, in response to his grief and to honor his friend with a beautiful album full of mourning and stunning soundscapes. The latest installment, The Illusionist, features Bosson on the drums, Ryan Price (bass), Balmore Lemus (guitar), and Chandler Mogel (vocals). The album also includes many musicians including a harsh vocalist, Brian Lewis. This incredible album has jazz elements, mixed with progressive musicianship, some hints of blues, and everything in between coming together with an interesting storyline and concept bow. The Illusionist character became familiar to me quickly and I found myself thinking more about his struggles and sorrows than I anticipated. I was so thrown into his world through the development and soundtrack to his life, that I found myself wanting to know more and not wanting to stop listening. It is a beautiful album full of surprises.

10. Taproot – Sc\Ssrs. To hear Taproot was creating new music was exciting news for this household. They have such a unique way of constructing their sounds, while Stephen Richards (vocals, guitar), holds a captivating vocal style. It had been much too long since we had heard anything new from this four-piece, we began to wonder if they were done for good. Richards started to tease the fans with the making of a new album, and everyone who had been waiting was eager to see the direction they would be going. Longtime members; Phil Lipscomb (bass), and Jarrod Montague (drums) jumped back on board along with newer member guitarist, Taylor Roberts, and here we are with Sc\Scrs. The album sounds like Taproot, yet is very different in some ways. They have taken a more diverse approach, where each song has its own experience. It is full of musical transformations, harsh and clean vocals, and bizarre soundscapes, and I love every moment of it. I find myself really engaged in, “No One Else to Blame”, and “Favorite Song”, has become an anthem due to the catchy chorus and facetious lyrics.

9. HinayanaShatter and Fall The first time I heard Hinayana, it was love at first listen. It didn’t take many listens or warming up to, I knew it was special. When I heard about the announcement of the new album, Shatter and Fall, I had to chat with Casey Hurd again to discuss it. Thankfully, he was up for it. Hinayana is a melodic death metal band from Texas. Members: Casey Hurd (vocals, guitar), Erik Shtaygrud (guitar), Daniel Vieria (drums), Michael Anstice (keyboards), and Matt Bius (bass), are sweeping the nations with new music and live performances, teaming up with Wolfheart for the second time. In Shatter and Fall, they have even brought on guest Wolfheart vocalist, Tuomas Saukkonen as well as Aether Realm‘s vocalist, Vincent Jackson Jones. The album is full of intense vocals, catchy riffs, beautiful melodies, insane guitar solos, and incredible musicianship all around with aggressive drums and great bass work. They somehow continue to get better and better even though they started out so strong.

8. Osaka PunchMixed Ape. when I first heard Osaka Punch, I immediately became a fan. Their unique mixture of musical genres along with sometimes silly and other times very insightful lyrics results in an enjoyable and cathartic experience. I had known they were working on a new album for quite some time, so when they announced the title and release date of Mixed Ape, I am sure I was among the many that pumped my fist in the air, i.e. Breakfast Club style, in excitement. The Australian group consisting of; Jack Venables (vocals), Brenton Page (bass), Chrispy Town (guitar), and Blair Hamilton (drums), have really outdone themselves with this release. Mixed Ape is full of musical brilliance and dare I say, their best one yet, which I guess means we have to forgive them for making us wait so long to bring it to our earholes. Their quirky videos, entertaining musical shifts, and Venables incredible vocal dynamics make this band a real treat to either discover and dive down the rabbit hole, or continue to digest day after day with continual pleasure. I cannot imagine anyone saying, “They just don’t have anything for me”, because they have something for everyone.

7. RPWLCrime Scene. When I first received this RPWL album, I immediately became immersed and got soaked into the music and experience. It was almost as if my soul left my body and soared with each note that floated to my ears. I instinctually closed my eyes and got completely lost. As I went further down the rabbit hole, I was almost horrified at how deeply I connected to this album due to the dark nature of the lyrical topics. I listened with a whole new mindset and became just as enthralled, much to my dismay at the time. After really calling attention to my reactions, I finally processed what was happening. RPWL approaches these historical stories so beautifully and with attention to the details of the humanity of these people, and people in general. It is almost like a gently guided journey through the darker parts of humanity but helps you feel that it is okay to be curious and want to understand the mindset to help these humans. What an incredible thing to be able to accomplish through music. RPWL began in 1997 out of Germany and started as a Pink Floyd cover band, which you will still hear influences of. Yogi Lang (vocals, keyboards), Kalle Wallner (guitar), Markus Grutzner (bass), and Marc Turiaux (drums), are true masters of their instruments and of creating an ambiance of soundscapes and melodies that are all-consuming. Crime Scene focuses on Karl Denke a well-liked cannibal and Carl Tanzler a heartbroken widow who dug up his wife to live with her corpse because he couldn’t be without her. It is the closest thing to a masterpiece I have heard in a while and brings good insight into these stories as well as into the human psyche.

6. DieHumane – The Grotesque. When you hear the word supergroup, who do you automatically think of? Well, I am going to throw another band into the hat for you all, because mixing Sal Abruscato (drums) of Type O Negative and A Pale Horse Named Death along with Rick Hunolt (lead guitar) of Exodus, as well as three other incredibly talented humans, Josh Vargas (rhythm guitar, bass, piano, programming), Greg Hilligiest (keys, samples, guitar), and Garret West (vocals), you get DieHumane, and let me tell you, this fusion is pure genius. I would be lying if I said I even knew where to begin with how to explain what these guys are doing with their debut album, The Grotesque, but whatever it is, is nothing short of a breath of fresh air; fresh, dark, heavy, bizarre air. Once I heard the first song, “Oblivion”, I knew I was going to be a fan, and wanted to hear more. Thankfully, I had the connections to do just that and had the ride of my life diving fully into this album full of melodic twists, multi-genre-infused soundscapes, and an overall wild quirky atmosphere. To be able to create something so incredibly outlandish flawlessly seems like a difficult feat, but they make it look easy, and I am beyond eager to see where they go next.

5. In FlamesForegone. I am a huge In Flames fan, so anytime they release something new, I am one of the first in line. At first, listen, I already knew it was another killer album full of heart and insight. One of the best things about this band is their lyrical content full of observation and understanding of humanity. In Flames line-up features band anchors Anders Friden (vocals) and Bjorn Gelotte (guitars), as well as Chris Broderick on guitar. The rhythm section, bassist Bryce Paul (on album) later replaced with Liam Wilson (live shows), and drummer Tanner Wayne. Foregone is full of melodies, Gelotte and Broderick guitar wizardry with the familiar In Flames riffs, and Paul and Wayne creating that beautiful soundscape to keep the pace of the songs moving in a scenic direction. It begins with a beautiful acoustic composition titled, “The Beginning Of All Things”, then quickly shifts gears into track two, “State of Slow Decay”, which resembles that common In Flames sound we have all grown to recognize and love. A personal favorite is, “A Dialogue in B Glat Minor”, where the dynamics flow in and out with enchanting soundscapes and intriguing lyrics.

4. Unearth – The Wretched; The Ruinous. I swear Unearth just gets better and better. The Wretched; The Ruinous is about as close to a masterpiece as you can get. Every time I press play, I don’t want it to end. I find myself automatically excited and feel my body start to react with head bobbing and thrashing arms, (like I have the slightest idea on how to drum as Justian does). Trevor Phipps (vocals), Buz Mcgrath (lead guitar), Peter Layman (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Chris O’Toole (bass, backing vocals), and Mike Justian (drums), have outdone themselves with this time. The heavy riffs, the insatiable solos, the consistent drumming, and bass melodies really make this album a tough one to beat. It feels impossible to pick a favorite song, since every track is almost perfect, but “Mother Betrayal”, was the one that made it onto many of my playlists and stuck in my head repeatedly. You can’t go wrong with any of them though, the level of brilliance on one album is quite rare.

3. Unprocessed – … And Everything in Between. This is an album that came across my ears much later than it should have. I had been going through old emails and came across the promo for … And Everything in Between and was instantly mesmerized. I listened to the album back to back… back again over and over. I loved every moment and finally jumped on YouTube to see their videos, just to find out not only how incredibly young these phenomenal musicians are, but also to learn that Manuel Gardner Fernandes (vocals, guitar), sings and screams while playing guitar. I have tried to play easy songs and sing at the same time, and it is not easy. Watching him play something so insanely complicated while also belting out vocals, was almost like finding a unicorn. Adding in skilled and brilliant members David John Levy (bass), Leon Pfeifer (drums), and Christoph Schultz (guitar), you have something so unique and special. I love how prominent the bass riffs are, as well as the clarity of each instrument having its time in the limelight through musical changes and melody shifts. If you have ever wondered how Polyphia should sound if they had a vocalist, this is your answer. Speaking of Polyphia, guitarists Tim Hensen and Scottie LePage make a cameo performance on track, “Die On The Cross of the Martyr”, although my favorite track has been, “Blackbone”, it is just perfection. I cannot speak highly enough about this album, and I know it will be one that I will listen to for years to come.

2. Baroness – Stone. In 2007, I heard Baroness for the first time. It was the Red Album. I felt so connected to the music that it instantly became one that I frequently listened to on my CD player. Ever since then, I have followed along, eager to hear the newest recordings, color to color. I did not think they could get better, but every year, they did and have. Stone is next level, somehow they continue on their streak of greatness without even a hiccup. If they continue to go up from here, I am afraid my brain might explode. Baroness began in 2003 in Georgia. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist John Baizley had a vision, and he has connected with people along the way to heighten that vision, year after year. Nick Jost (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), and Sebastian Thomson (drums), jumped on in 2013 to increase the musical fullness of an already-established band. When Gina Gleason (lead guitar and vocals) joined in 2017, the quartet had reached all new horizons. The magic these four bring to the table is undeniable, and the talent is breathtaking. Stone consistently gives me goosebumps and my heart swells with every single track. It is as close to a masterpiece as an album can get. Listen to the transition between “Choir” and “The Dirge” and I dare you to tell me I am wrong. You can feel the mourning and catharsis with each lyric and each melody. I cannot speak highly enough about what they have created, it is a brilliant and special album. I encourage you to listen all the way through, with no interruptions, all immersed, and allow Baroness to take you on an emotional journey.

1. Avenged Sevenfold – Life is But a Dream…. Avenged Sevenfold has been a rarity in my life. As an opinionated metal hipster I once tried to be, I tried and tried not to like them. I wisened up and recognized the talent and inventiveness they brought to the musical table many years ago. The lyrics alone that Matt Shadows creates are enough to make me cry nine times out of ten. He is a beautiful lyricist. When Synyster Gates is mixed in, you have a dynamic duo of vocalist and guitarist, like the toxic twins in Aerosmith, or Jagger-RichardsPage and Plant, the list goes on, but Shadows/Gates have earned their spot. While Zachy Vengeance (guitar, backing vocals), Johnny Christ (bass), and now Brooks Wackerman (drums), add a much-needed combination of pure genius. Not only does this band know how to keep you on your toes, but their marketing is notable. Life is But a Dream… is next level. You can easily feel the Mr. Bungle influences as the album can seem like an acid trip at times, but somehow, just like Bungle, it works. Some people had to warm up to this one, I am not one of those people. I loved it from the start, and it has been a consistent listen since the album was released. The piano melodies are breathtaking, the jazzy moments are placed perfectly, and the progressive mixes make this an entertaining journey. It is an adventure full of surprises, twists and turns, and refinement. It is a masterpiece, plain and simple.


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